For the 2018 football season, there was a general rule for high schools in the Colorado Springs area.
If your team resided south of Fillmore Street, your team generally struggled. Sierra, Palmer, Mitchell, Cheyenne Mountain and Widefield combined to lose 40 of 50 games.
And if your team resided north of Fillmore, your team generally soared. Air Academy, Pine Creek, Discovery Canyon, Lewis-Palmer and Rampart combined to win 45 of 59 games.
Orlando Westbrook-Sanchez led a revolution against this south-end trend. He directed a powerful Harrison offense to an 11-1 record and the state quarterfinals. He rushed for 817 yards and 19 touchdowns and passed for 2,336 yards, 18 TDs and a 125.9 quarterback rating. (Palmer Ridge quarterback Ty Evans compiled a 102.9 QB rating.)
The Panthers, led by Westbrook-Sanchez, offer light and hope for the many struggling teams in the Springs, and beyond.
Westbrook-Sanchez’s — and Harrison’s — accomplishments were diminished because of Harrison’s schedule. It’s true: The Panthers did much feasting on weak opponents. But the Panthers also conquered Green Mountain and Holy Family, teams that combined for 16 wins and six losses.
I watched Westbrook-Sanchez lead the Harrison crusade over Holy Family. He’s extremely mobile and elusive in the pocket. His arm is accurate and powerful. He’s the rare quarterback who runs over tacklers.
With a little over two minutes left in the Holy Family game, Harrison was looking shaky. The Panthers, who had watched a big lead evaporate to a mere four points, faced a third and 15.
Westbrook-Sanchez came to the rescue, lofting a gorgeous 42-yard pass to Seth Fuller that clinched the victory.
His teammates and coaches were shouting and leaping on the sidelines, but Westbrook-Sanchez remained calm.
He didn’t shake his fists. He didn’t howl with joy. He expected to make the big throw. What was the big deal?
I was, I believe, watching a college star.
Performance of the year — Kaylee Kearse, Peyton High School
At the state track meet, Kearse ran the anchor leg of Peyton’s victorious 4x200 relay, and that’s an impressive performance regardless of circumstance.
But here’s where it grows to something beyond merely impressive:
She ran the victory lap less than 30 minutes after winning the state 800, a race that demands speed, endurance and courage.
After the 800 victory, Kearse celebrated briefly with family and friends. She hugged her mother. She savored the moment.
But she only had a moment. She then ran to Peyton’s tent, where she spent a few precious minutes recovering while her relay teammates — freshmen Baylee Faris and Madeline Schuemann and sophomore Annika DeAnda — shouted nonstop encouragement.
“You can do this, Kaylee!” the trio kept shouting to their senior leader. “You can do this!”
The optimistic trio was right. She could, and did, do this.